The Book of Chameleons – José Eduardo Agualusa

The Book of Chameleons has been one of the books waiting to be read in my library for a very long time. Finally, as I decided to read more from the Read Around the World reading project, I thought I would give it a shot. Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa has written a very interesting book.


The Book of Chameleons consists of events narrated by a chameleon. So if you’re tired of people telling you something, you can listen to this beautiful animal. The chameleon describes what happened in the house where he was born and never left. The house owner is an albino who brings in the occasional prostitutes and leads a quiet life among his books; Felix Ventura. This interesting man has a fascinating job as well; he is a memory seller. Constantly watched by the chameleon in the house, Felix makes a living selling new and sparkling histories to people.

The Book of Chameleons - José Eduardo Agualusa

People who want new backgrounds get birth certificates, old photos, a personal family history, and stories for the money they pay Felix. On the other hand, the chameleon can understand everything that is going on at home, empathise with people, and laugh. This once human animal found itself as a chameleon when it came back to earth. When he enters Felix’s dreams, he does not neglect to have conversations with him in human form. The Book of Chameleons was an interesting one, even if it distanced me from it at times. Be sure to take a look. Enjoy!

The Book of Chameleons - José Eduardo Agualusa

The Book of Chameleons

The Book of Chameleons: Félix Ventura trades in an unusual commodity; he is a dealer in memories, clandestinely selling new pasts to people whose futures are secure and who lack only a good lineage to complete their lives. 

InThe Book of Chameleons, a completely original murder mystery, where people are not who they seem and the briefest of connections leads to the forging of entirely new histories, a bookish albino, a beautiful woman, a mysterious foreigner, and a witty talking lizard come together to discover the truth of their lives. Set in Angola, Agualusa’s tale darts from tormented past to dream-filled present with a lightness that belies the savage history of a country in which many have something to forget — and to hide.

A brilliant American debut by one of the most lauded writers in the Portuguese-speaking world,The Book of Chameleons is a beautifully written and always surprising tale of race, truth, and the transformative power of creativity. 

José Eduardo Agualusa

José Eduardo Agualusa Alves da Cunha (born December 13, 1960) is an Angolan journalist and writer of Portuguese and Brazilian descent. He studied agronomy and silviculture in Lisbon, Portugal. Currently he resides in the Island of Mozambique, working as a writer and journalist. He also has been working to establish a public library on the island.

Agualusa writes predominantly in his native language, Portuguese. His books have been translated into twenty-five languages, most notably into English by translator Daniel Hahn, a frequent collaborator of his. Much of his writing focuses on the history of Angola.

He has seen some success in English-speaking literary circles, most notably for A General Theory of Oblivion. That novel, written in 2012 and translated in 2015, was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and was the recipient of the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award.

The Book of Chameleons - José Eduardo Agualusa

Agualusa’s work was described by Ana Mafalda Leite as sometimes providing “a link between history and fiction, between the account of past events and the description of what might have been possible.” The critic continues, “The author tries…to capture the moment in which history becomes literature, to illustrate how literary imagination takes precedence over the historical by means of the fantastic and an oneiric vision of life.” Her assessment of the author’s skills is as follows: “Agualusa gives evidence not just of solid historical research but also of the literary talent which brings these characters to life.”

In June 2017, Agualusa, alongside Daniel Hahn, his translator, was awarded the International Dublin Literary Award for his novel A General Theory of Oblivion. Agualusa’s work beat a shortlist of ten titles from around the world, including one written by Irish author Anne Enright, to claim the €100,000 prize. Agualusa was awarded €75,000 personally, as the translator, Daniel Hahn, was entitled to a €25,000 share of the prize money.

Nação Crioula (1997) was awarded the RTP Great Literary Prize. The Book of Chameleons (2006) won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007. He is the first African writer to win the award since its inception in 1990.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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